By Connie Wilhelm, Chief Executive Officer, Home Builders Association of Central Arizona and David Godlewski, President, Southern Arizona Home Builders Association
(NOTE: the following opinion piece appeared in The Arizona Republic on March 15, 2018)
The Arizona Republic’s Linda Valdez has done a genuine disservice to readers with her recent opinion piece (Why central Arizona can raid everyone else's water - and it's all legal 2/15/18).
Not only was her column disappointingly inaccurate, it was irresponsibly peppered with emotional words purposely chosen to scare those unfamiliar with Arizona water law.
If you’re part of the anti-growth crowd, you too probably have a negative opinion of the Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District. After all, the CAGRD is responsible for much of Arizona’s economic growth over the last 20 years.
Consider this incredible fact; over 550 subdivisions in Maricopa County and every new home built in Pima County since 1998 were able to be built due in large part to the existence of the Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District. Owners of these homes enjoy a reliable and affordable supply of high quality water, determined by the State of Arizona to be available for at least the next 100 years.
The economic benefit created as a result is staggering; 118,000 jobs, nearly $5 billion in wages, and over $13 billion in economic impact. All of this because nearly three decades ago the Legislature and Governor, along with public and private sector leaders, came together in the great Arizona tradition of consensus-driven problem solving to create an entity whose sole purpose is to find sustainable sources of water to supply Arizona’s future economic growth.
And with all due respect to Sarah Porter of the Kyl Center for Water Policy, it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that acquiring rights to use renewable surface water to replenish our groundwater is a key goal of CAGRD. Indeed, sustainable surface water is the optimum alternative to mining our precious, depletable groundwater. This is the genius of CAGRD; it protects our groundwater while making it possible for those taxpayers in Arizona who don’t have a direct allocation of Colorado River water to benefit from this resource.
This is widely accepted as sound policy. Operational plans filed regularly with the AZ Department of Water Resources clearly state CAGRD intends to acquire additional Colorado River water to move into central Arizona for groundwater replenishment purposes. The most recent plan was approved by ADWR Director Tom Buschatzke as recently as 2015.
Now, a landowner in Mohave County with a property right to Colorado River water has entered into an agreement with CAGRD that may advance this well-established policy.
Not only is this well within the letter and spirit of Arizona law, it is a voluntary mechanism to meet the water challenges of a growing state while making sure the agricultural economy of towns in rural western Arizona remain whole and unharmed.
With sound management, there is enough water available today and well into the distant future for rural economies adjacent to the river, and also for the part of Arizona that is the economic engine and population center of the State. On behalf of the homebuilding industry of Arizona, we are enthusiastic in our support of the Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District.